If you and your soon-to-be spouse are self-proclaimed oenophiles, this could be a nice way to highlight your passions.
wedding place wine glasses
Credit: Jose Villa

There's good news for wine lovers: You don't have to host your wedding on a vineyard to bring a piece of the wine tasting experience to your wedding. Including a wine tasting option during your cocktail hour gives wine a meaningful role in your wedding and provides entertainment for guests during a time when the bride and groom are typically off taking pictures with family. Ahead, Joey Kleinhans of The Sommelier Company gives his advice on hosting a wine tasting during the cocktail hour that guests won't forget.

What should the set up look like?

Arrange a tasting station in a more secluded part of the wedding venue, where people can focus on tasting the wines, ask the sommelier questions, and talk amongst themselves. If possible, set the tasting outside where there's plenty of space for tables and people to mingle. Aside from the wines, include a stainless-steel pour or dump bucket for guests to discard wines they don't like, a crate or cooling bucket for white wines, and one glass per person at the wedding. Optional: Offering a French baguette as a palate cleanser between wines, plus a variety of cheeses to nibble on, is the optimal flavor pairing, Kleinhans says. As guests come to end of their tasting, offer a printed-out overview of the wines they've tried. You could also offer mini bottles of their favorite types as a wedding favor.

How much wine should we provide?

There should be 30 bottles of wine per 100 guests, Kleinhans says. By the end of the tasting, each person will have consumed about one and a half glasses of wine. Offer six different varieties of wine, ranging from lighter to richer options.

What types of wine should we provide?

In general, of your six varieties, two-thirds should be red and one-third white, which includes sparkling and rosé. But the types of wines will differ depending on the time of year. For summer weddings, switch the red-white ratios and offer more cooler and lighter options. To narrow down your wine choices, pick a theme, such as classics from around the world, suggests Kleinhans, and serve one bottle each from six popular wine countries, such as France, Italy, and Spain. "When you have a California wedding, it's nice to show the great wines of California, "he says, especially if your guests are coming from out of state and haven't experienced Napa Valley wine tasting.

How much will this cost?

Base your wine choices on your venue. If your wedding is formal and held at a high-end venue, match the wines to your setting. Plan to spend between $25 and $40 a bottle, with $20 wines considered low-budget and $60 on the high end, Kleinhans says. Often, a hotel or restaurant will require the wine order to go through its catering service. "But those venues are marking up the prices three times the wholesale cost," says Kleinhans. Ask the venue or caterer if you can bring in wines from an outside source in exchange for a $20-30 corkage fee. If they agree, find a nationally licensed retailer with an extensive selection, says Kleinhans, who often uses Wine.com to purchase his wines for events.

Who should run the tasting?

Ask your venue for a recommendation of someone who can help you select your wines, set up the event and talk intelligently about the wine choices. Or, go through an outside company that specializes in hosting wine tasting events and can provide you with a sommelier, who will aid you through the whole process. Many sommeliers are not only knowledgeable about the wine, but also experienced public speakers, says Kleinhans, which makes for a more entertaining experience.


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